HARRISBURG -- For Gov. Tom Corbett, the next few weeks will be critical in deciding whether he salvages his administration's most aggressive foray to date into privatizing state government services.
For months, Corbett has been working behind the scenes to bring in a private company to manage the Pennsylvania lottery, which last fiscal year recorded more than $3.5 billion in sales and more than $1 billion in profits that went toward programs that benefit the state's senior citizens. The administration has argued that a rapidly growing senior population in Pennsylvania has made it necessary to explore ways to make the lottery more profitable.
But the governor's plan to privatize the lottery management with the British firm Camelot Global Services has run into roadblocks and may be running out of time. Camelot's bid expires Dec. 31, but last week, without an agreement from Camelot, the governor granted the lottery employees' union more time to present an alternative plan to privatization. AFSCME Council 13 originally had until Monday to submit its plan, but now will have until Jan. 8.
Whether the governor will persuade Camelot to agree to extend its bid remains a question. But how he handles the tricky negotiations will be viewed by many as a test of his administration's effectiveness in closing a high-stakes deal.
Administration officials have at least tried not to let anyone see them sweat.
I think the overall strength of the project, in the view of all the business decision makers, will outweigh any negatives to a short-term extension of the deadline, Revenue Secretary Dan Meuser said last week.
Even if Camelot agrees this week to an extension, privatizing lottery management will face other obstacles. AFSCME Council 13, which represents 175 of the lottery's 230 employees, has sued to stop the contract, arguing that Corbett lacks authority to privatize the lottery without legislative approval.